Are Critics too Tough on New Musicals?

A scene from Water Babies a new musical that got less than stellar review. Photo credit: Johan Persson

A scene from Water Babies, a new musical that got less-than-stellar reviews. Photo credit: Johan Persson

These days the overwhelming majority of musicals being staged are revivals or based on something (books, movies, etc.). It’s not hard to understand why — putting on a new musical is a huge undertaking and carries enormous risk. Until you perform it, you really don’t know how audiences will react, which isn’t the case with Phantom or Oklahoma.

This risk made Lyn Gardner over at The Guardian ask whether theater reviewers should take it easy on new musicals, therefore giving them a chance to work out the quirks and build an audience. Here’s a key quote from the story:

“I think that the best way to serve theatre is to be honest and write what you really think. And that means that on rare – and I really do think they are rare – occasions when you see a show that you think is truly terrible, you should say so just as loudly as you would when you saw something you loved and praised to the skies. Praise, of course, that theatres and producers are more than happy to plaster on flyers and social media as if it’s some kind of gospel truth. Which it ain’t.”

Do you agree with Gardner? Should theater critics be brutally honest at all times or should they give new shows some leeway?

 

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